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Memorial Day Quiz: How Many of These Bible Memorials Do You Know?

Memorial Day in the United States is a time for Americans remember and reflect on the sacrifices made by members of their armed forces over the years and centuries. Many other countries and cultures also designate holidays, festivals, or monuments to help people remember important events in their shared cultural history.

That’s as true of ancient people as it is of modern cultures! The Bible mentions many memorials designed to remind people of historically or spiritually important truths. Do you know what these Bible memorials were intended to remind people about? Take the quiz below and test your Bible knowledge:

Once you’ve taken the quiz, share it with friends and see how their score compares to yours!

Explore Memory and Culture in the Bible

For further reflection on the role of memory and memorials—in both the modern day and in Bible times—see our post Monuments and Memorial Day: Remembering Who We Are.

If you found the memorials mentioned in our quiz fascinating, sign up for our new one-week devotional that explores Bible history and culture! It’s Living History: Exploring Biblical Cultures, and in the course of a week it will give you fresh context for some of your favorite Bible passages. The Living History devotional draws from the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible.

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Getting Out of Your Own Way

by Sanya Richards-Ross

If anyone thinks they are something when
they are not, they deceive themselves. Each
one should test their own actions. Then they
can take pride in themselves alone, without
comparing themselves to someone else.

GALATIANS 6:3–4

I really thought they would cancel the race. I didn’t realize they sold tickets and that there was a strict schedule to maintain. I was young. It was my second world championships—my first as one of the favorites.

This can’t be happening, I thought. Surely the organizers will reschedule. Sheets of rain covered my “oval office” in currents of water. This obsession with the uphill walk and my suddenly soaked socks really just distracted me from my main focus—Tonique Williams-Darling, the powerful runner from the Bahamas who had won Olympic gold in the 400 meters the previous summer in Athens.

In 2004, I turned professional after winning gold on the 4×400 relay at the Olympics. I didn’t medal individually, but if I had run my fastest time from that season, I would have earned bronze. That validated to me that I was ready to move beyond the grinding team schedule of college athletics and pursue my potential to be one of the world’s best.

Tonique was my main competition for the 2005 World Championships title contested on this water-soaked track in Finland. She beat me at a major track meet in the United States in June, but I had come back to beat her a month later during the European racing season. She announced her presence at the track with a regal aura. When she and her entourage arrived that day, the rain, falling harder and heavier by the minute, seemed to slide right around her. Tonique was dry as a bone. At least it seemed that way to me.

The night before the race, I had a conversation with a runner I really admired. “To win against Tonique,” he said, “you have to beat her off the curve.” My youth crippled me once again, because I didn’t have the nerve to say that when I won in Lausanne—the Swiss city that sits beside Lake Geneva and is home to the International Olympic Committee—I had to make up ground coming through the turn into the homestretch, the final 100 meters. But he said it, and I believed his advice. I wanted to know I’d be doing something different—something extra—to guarantee a win. I failed to see that the winning formula was inside me all along.

The rain was torrential, and it remained my tormentor. Coach Hart said it was the first and only time he’d ever seen a track covered in curling waves of water. Still, they lined us up to run. The last thing Coach told me before I walked out to my lane was, “Push, pace”—a reminder of the strategy we’d use to run every race. He always tells me to get out hard and then find my rhythm for the last half of the race. If I pace myself through the final turn, I can kick it down the homestretch, but that wasn’t the advice I was given the night before.

Push, pace, whatever, I said to myself. I’m beating her off the curve, and I’m winning this final.

I drew lane 3, and Tonique had lane 6. Running on the inside of your biggest rival can be, and should be, a big advantage. Pacing, movement, and position all become an auxiliary sense. When it comes time to make the turn and really race, that awareness is your friend. This time, though, Tonique became my target. I fixated on her instead of my lane and my strategy.

Coach Hart’s “push, pace” strategy tells me to power through the first 50 meters with everything I have and then transition after the first turn, throttle back, and preserve my best running for the end of the race. This time, though, I was intent on beating Tonique around the last curve, and I did. But when I got there, in front of the pack, my legs were all out of running. All of my energy had been used up chasing her. I couldn’t hold the lead.

It was all I could do to hang on and finish second in the world championships. For a twenty-year-old, second-year professional, that should feel like an accomplishment, but I was heartbroken. And not because I lost, but because I beat myself running someone else’s race. Before I ever stepped on to the track and squinted through the downpour, eagle-eyeing Tonique, I talked myself out of winning.

It was a lesson learned. “They can’t beat me if I run my best race” became a mantra I’d say before every race throughout my career. The disappointment and devastation that come when you allow the circumstances around you to create a negative mind-set were very real to me. As a young, still-maturing professional athlete, that loss in the 2005 world championships was one of the hardest things I’ve had to overcome. The moment I crossed the finish line, I knew I second-guessed myself to a second-place finish.

I was humbled after losing the world title to Tonique. Mostly, I was angry for not believing what I knew in my heart to be true: I was the fastest 400 runner in the world. A few days after the world championships race, I visited with Coach Hart and vowed to never make the same mistake again.

“Coach, I’m going to win out,” I told him. “I’m going to win the rest of my races, and I’m going to be ranked No. 1 in the world.” Usually the world champion always got the Track & Field News top ranking, but I knew if I won my final races—if I ran to my potential—I could take the top spot.

Not even two weeks later, I ran the fastest race of my life up to that point in Zurich and then closed out the season with another victory in Monaco. I ended the season ranked No. 1, and my 48.9 seconds in Zurich was the fastest time in the world that year. It also made me the youngest woman in history to ever run below 49 seconds.

Yes, Tonique raced against me both times. But it didn’t matter. I ran my race.

________

Taken from Chasing Grace: What the Quarter Mile Has Taught Me about God and Life by Sanya Richards-Ross. Click here to learn more about this title.

In Chasing Grace, Sanya shares triumphant as well as heartbreaking stories as she reveals her journey to becoming a world-class runner. From her childhood in Jamaica to Athens, Beijing and London Olympics, you’ll find yourself inspired by the unique insights she’s gained through her victories and losses, including her devastating injury during the 2016 Olympic Trials forcing career retirement just weeks before Rio. Sanya demonstrates how even this devastating loss brought her closer to the ultimate goal of becoming all God created her to be.

”Sometimes you think you are chasing a gold medal, but that’s not what you are chasing. You’re racing to become the best version of yourself.”

Sanya Richards-Ross is a Jamaican-American track and field athlete who competes internationally for the United States. She is the fastest American woman in history at 400 meters and the winner of multiple Olympic gold medals. Off the track, Sanya is an entrepreneur, TV personality, public speaker, and humanitarian. She designs and executes sports clinics across the United States to educate, empower, and teach youth with tools and strategies to excel both on and off the track. Sanya is married to two-time Super Bowl champion Aaron Ross and they live in Austin, TX.

Ascension Day: Jesus Ascends to Heaven

Ascension Day - Jesus ascends to heavenToday is Ascension Day! Today, on the 40th day of Easter, we commemorate Jesus’ ascent into heaven.

While it’s common to picture Jesus’ resurrection at Easter as the final major event in his earthly ministry, his ascent is important too. Not just because it marks Jesus’ physical departure from Earth, but because during it Jesus issued a famous command that his followers try to pursue even today, thousands of years later: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”

The Ascension in the Bible

Christ’s ascension is described—albeit fairly briefly—in a few places in the Bible, and is mentioned or referenced in several of the epistles. The most detailed account is found in Mark 16:14-19:

Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.Mark 16:14-19 (NIV)

Other Biblical References to the Ascension

While a multitude of Bible references confirm that this event took place, it’s difficult to piece together the exact details and chronology of Jesus’ ascension. (There is some question about whether the verses above were later additions to the book of Mark, for example—if you’re a Bible Gateway Plus member, see the useful discussion of this question in the NIV Quest Study Bible.) You can also read about Jesus’ ascension in these passages:

In addition to these accounts, you can find references to Christ’s ascension throughout the New Testament. Some of these references occur before the event—for example, Jesus’ mention of his future ascension in John 20:17. Many of the epistles make reference to the ascension after the fact—for example, Ephesians 1:19-20 and 1 Timothy 3:16. You can find a complete list of ascension references in the Dictionary of Bible Themes on Bible Gateway.

What Does Jesus’ Ascension Mean for Us Today?

Is Jesus’ ascension significant for our faith and understanding of God? Or is it just a short epilogue to his earthly ministry? Christians believe that the ascension does hold value and meaning for us today. Here are two articles that unpack the importance of the ascension, and Jesus’ post-resurrection ministry:

What’s Next After Ascension Day?

In less than two weeks, the Christian church will celebrate another huge event in the history of Christianity: Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was sent to equip and encourage the fledgling Christian church. At Pentecost, God demonstrated that although Jesus had physically left Earth, his followers would never be without a heavenly guide as they faced life’s trials. So today, join with Christians around the world in commemorating Jesus’ ascension—and let’s all look forward with anticipation to the joy of Pentecost!

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Discover Your True Identity: An Interview with Songwriter Matthew West

Matthew WestAre you struggling to find your true identity? Have you been damaged by somebody’s hurtful words? What does the Bible say about your identity not being found within, but through Jesus Christ?

Bible Gateway interviewed Matthew West (@matthew_west) about his book, Hello, My Name Is: Discover Your True Identity (Worthy Publishing, 2017).

In your new book, you discuss the importance of finding personal identity in God, rather than in the things of this world. What have you discovered about your own identity through the writing of Hello, My Name Is?

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Matthew West: From the start, I told myself that if I hoped to write a book that helped people to take a good look at some of the names that have been written on their nametags, I would need to do the same. I had to write this book from a place of authenticity, even vulnerability, being willing to let God show me areas of my life that have been incorrectly shaped by false identities I’ve allowed to hang around for too long. In the book, I talk about some of those names that were revealed to me—names like “Pretender, Control Freak, Insecure,” and the list goes on. I truly felt like, ‘if this book is helping me, then it’s going to help someone else.’

I hope people feel that honesty in these pages and are freed up to take the same honest look at their lives, then ask God to show them how His truth about us differs from those false identities we’ve been handed throughout our journeys.

I love David’s prayer, “Search me, God, and know my heart…” (Psalm 139:23). I prayed that a lot while writing this book. “God, search my heart and my life, reveal to me any areas of my life that you want me to see, any identities you want to show me, and help me dare to believe that your grace has erased them once and for all.”

Hello My Name Is is also the name of a song you wrote and recorded several years ago. Talk about what inspired the song and how the song inspired you to write this book.

Matthew West: I’ve noticed that most authors who are pastors or speakers write books whose message is derived from a sermon series they did at their church. I guess my process is similar except that instead of a sermon, the genesis of the idea is found in the form of a three-minute song. And many of my songs have been inspired by the true stories and testimonies of people who’ve written to me from all over the world. I’ve collected over 40,000 stories and counting.

One of those stories is about Jordan, who wrote to me and shared his powerful story of addiction. The first sentence read, “Hello, my name is Jordan and I’m a drug addict.” He went on to tell me that he grew up a good preacher’s kid. He then went on to college and became an All-American athlete, but after suffering a season-ending injury, he felt lost and found a new, unwanted identity thanks to the prescription pain medication he had been given. After two failed drug tests, Jordan was kicked out of school. As a last resort, he agreed to enter into Teen Challenge, a Christian drug recovery program for an entire year.

He shared with me how difficult that time was but that God radically changed his life by showing him some things about where he’d been finding his identity. He told me that he realized that he’s not defined by his successes OR his failures, but he is who God says he is.

Today, Jordan is a husband, father, high school coach, and an all around awesome guy whom I call a friend. The last sentence of his letter said, “Hello, my name is Jordan and I am a child of the one true king.”

In what ways does the Bible talk about a person’s identity?

Matthew West: I love 1 John 3:1: “See what great love the Father has lavished upon us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

To be called a child of God—a child of the “one true king,” as Jordan put it—there is no greater distinction. I love the final sentence of that Scripture with that emphatic exclamation mark. What a powerful assurance. Right here, right now, in this very moment, no matter how good or bad you feel about yourself, you’re a beloved child of God. Throughout Scripture, God is conveying this message. He made you, he loves you, he pursues you, he’s not done with you, and he’s called you his child.

The subtitle of your book is Discover Your True Identity. What are people’s “false identity” and how can they determine their true identity?

Matthew West: A false identity is any lie that contradicts our God-given identities through Scripture. These false identities can be created by ourselves because of sin in our lives, choices made, or wrong turns taken and the regret, guilt, and shame that follows. Other false identities are handed to us by outside sources, maybe a damaging word spoken to us by someone or a childhood of abuse.

However, not all false identities are negative on the surface, such as successful, attractive, wealthy, athletic, or talented. But even those identities can become false when we place too much of our weight on them. Jordan’s identity was “All-American” until he broke his ankle and his season was over. Then, he didn’t know who he was anymore and started spinning out of control.

I’ve started working out with a trainer. He always talks about the importance of developing my “core.” Any fitness expert will tell you that a strong core is the start to a strong and healthy body. The same is true with our identities. It’s about strengthening our core, which requires digging past all of the surface identities that crowd our nametags and remembering that at the deepest level we are God’s masterpiece. The stronger our knowledge of the core of who we are, the better we’ll be able to deflect the old names and false identities that try to own us.

What’s your advice to those people living under the burden of a false identity right now?

Matthew West: Read this book! Ha! Seriously, my advice can only come from a place of what’s helping me. And what helped me is what also guided me in the writing of Hello, My Name Is: Scripture. One of the things I love about the Bible is that it’s page-by-page proof that God is not just a “broad strokes” kind of creator; God is in the details. So much so that we’re told nothing is hidden from him. He sees everything; he’s the beginning and the end. There’s no greater authority on your life than the one who gave you your life.

Much of this book, contrary to what one might think when they see the title, is not a search within but an encouragement to begin the journey of discovering who you really are by first discovering who you belong to and what your creator has to say about you. I truly believe that if someone is believing a lie about who they are right now, that God’s desire for you is to be set free from that once and for all. Ask him to show you where that false identity is coming from. Ask him to show you how differently he sees you than how you view yourself.

Throughout Hello, My Name Is, you weave stories from people you’ve met during your years touring as a musician. What story impacted you the most?

Matthew West: There’s no substitute for the power of a personal story. I love what happens when I get to hand my platform over to a guy like Jordan. The true stories of God redeeming a broken life shoot like arrows straight to our hearts and remind us that God wants to do the same life changing work in our lives.

I love how one story can impact another story, causing a ripple effect of change if we let it. Rob’s story is featured in the book for that very reason. Rob actually got saved at one of my concerts and decided to seek help for his drug addiction as a result of hearing Hello My Name Is and witnessing the story of Jordan. Today Rob has been sober for over two years. And the ripple effect continues.

Why do you believe this message about identity is so important for people to hear today?

Matthew West: When I saw how much the message of the song resonated with people I began to realize we’re all on the same journey of discovering who we are. Why else would the bookstores be filled with self-help books? That’s why I wanted to write this book; as a powerful reminder that when it comes to getting to the core of who we are, we simply can’t help ourselves. Left to our own devices, we’ll wander down a wide road filled with people slapping false identities on us at every turn. I’ve walked that road, and I don’t want to anymore.

We’ve got social media now where we can even create an identity for ourselves and show the world an inauthentic highlight reel version of who we are. But I’m drawn to REAL, not a highlight reel. The world doesn’t need to see another plastic Christian pretending they’ve got it all together. The world needs to see more Jordans; people who are willing to stand up and say, I’m far from perfect, but I’m loved by a perfect God.

What do you hope people walk away with after reading Hello, My Name Is?

Matthew West: I walked away with a renewed passion for Scripture and I was powerfully reminded that God’s Word really is a lamp to guide my feet along this journey of discovering who I am. I hope people will soak in the Scripture that I highlight throughout page after page of this book.

What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?

Matthew West: Bible Gateway is an amazing resource at our fingertips meeting us right where we are daily with the life-giving word of God. I use the resources when I’m on the go as well as when I’m doing Scripture study for books like this one. The ability to quickly access so many versions of Scripture is really an awesome tool.


Bio: Matthew West is a multiple-ASCAP Christian Music Songwriter/Artist of the Year winner, a four-time GRAMMY® nominee, and was awarded his first American Music Award (2013) and a Billboard Music Award (2014). Matthew West’s discography includes acclaimed releases: Happy (2003), History (2005), Something to Say (2008), The Story of Your Life (2010) and GRAMMY®- nominated Into the Light (2012). West was nominated for a Primetime Emmy® Award for Original Music & Lyrics for The Heart of Christmas from the film of the same name. His songwriting credits include cuts by Rascal Flatts, Billy Ray Cyrus, Diamond Rio, and more. He spent much of late 2012 and early 2013 on a pre-headlining stint on WinterJam Tour Spectacular, the number one tour in the world. He’s the author of Hello, My Name Is: Discover Your True Identity and Forgiveness: Overcoming the Impossible, Your Story: Embrace It, Tell It, Live It.

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How the Book of Psalms Is Like No Other Biblical Book

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Read the English Standard Version (ESV) Bible translation on Bible Gateway

Read the book of Psalms (ESV) on Bible Gateway

The Psalms are the only extended portion of Scripture written directly to God as a collection of heartfelt prayers. As such, the layout of the Psalms provides the reader with a wonderful platform for meditation and devotion.

The ESV Devotional Psalter (Crossway, 2017) pairs each of the Bible’s 150 psalms with a short devotional on thick, cream-colored, opaque paper with wide margins—allowing for note taking and written prayers alongside the Scriptures for deep personal study, thoughtful interaction, and prayerful reflection.

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How to Embrace Creative Evangelism: An Interview with Peyton Jones

Peyton JonesAccording to recent research, only 25% of Christians think it’s their job to share their faith. Do you struggle to tell the gospel to the neighborhoods you drive through on your way to church programs? What are the timeless principles of evangelism found in the book of Acts?

In this Q&A—in time for the International Day for the Unreached (June 4, 2017)—Peyton Jones (@PeytonJonesPunk) talks about his book, Reaching the Unreached: Becoming Raiders of the Lost Art (Zondervan, 2017).

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[Browse resources in the Evangelism section in the Bible Gateway Store]

There’s a not-so-subtle allusion to Indiana Jones in the subtitle of your book and in the cover. Explain what you find inspiring about Indiana Jones.

Peyton Jones: Indiana has an unassuming day job. Glasses, bow ties, archeology (before it was cool). Nobody expects that he has an inner adventurer that’d rather be out in the jungle on some adventure. I think that every believer has this hidden, yet reluctant adventurer inside of them in the form of the Holy Spirit, who was deposited in us for, among other things, mission. We settle for the classroom, but the adventure is out there.

You were once close to becoming the senior pastor at a megachurch, but your life took a very different turn. Describe your story of ministry.

Peyton Jones: I thought I wanted to be the next Spurgeon or Lloyd-Jones as a young man. Those guys are still among my heroes, but my goals to be like them really stemmed from wanting people to hear me talk. The worst part about that was that in the life I pictured for myself, I was the center of attention who only expected people to listen. I have new heroes now. Wesley, William Booth, and others who got out on the streets, and brought people with them. They activated others, and turned them loose in the power of the Spirit to transform society around them.

You turn to the book of Acts throughout your book. What can we learn from Acts about what the church should look like and do?

Peyton Jones: We live in the age of webinars and online courses that promise the silver bullet solutions. The problem is they don’t deliver. Yet Jesus promised power; real power to the apostles if they waited on him. Peter said the promise was for them and their children, and as many as God would call. It’s a perpetual promise. It’s our unwillingness to maintain the tension between going and waiting that creates most of impotence today.

Power was promised in connection with mission. That’s why the missionaries have all the great stories. They’ve been called to go, and they’ve went. As a result of putting themselves in situations where they’re out of their depth, the Holy Spirit turns up as promised. Why? Because they’re doing things that require his assistance. They actually NEED him for what they’re doing. Placing ourselves in missional postures today will create the same results as we obey by both going and waiting.

You say, “The church has substituted fun instead of adventure.” As someone who has spent a lot of time overseas doing church planting, what do you think of the state of the American church?

Peyton Jones: Not to sound like a fuddy duddy here but I think that if you’ve been around for a few decades, it’s easy to see that our churches have largely turned to entertainment as a means of keeping butts in the pews. But keeping butts in the pews was never the point. Weren’t we supposed to be turning them out of them? Proliferating? Spreading?

The problem with entertainment as worship, or spiritual sustenance is that it’s like cotton candy. It’s eating, but it’s not providing substance or nutrition. Mission does that.

Think back to when you’ve ever gone on a short term mission trip. Isn’t that where your faith came alive? Anyone who’s come back from the field can’t go back to business as usual. I believe that many of our young people have left the church because they haven’t seen it in action. They’ve seen it in entertainment and it leaves them empty. Mission will reverse that trend. Young people get Christianity when they see it in action. They respect it then.

What happens to Christians if they don’t follow God’s call to make disciples? What is the role that the Holy Spirit plays in all of this, and how can we experience the power of the Holy Spirit?

Peyton Jones: When a believer doesn’t follow the call to make disciples, their spiritual gifts atrophy. When Paul said “stir up the gift of God in you” it was an admonition to not let the passion die out.

Our gifts lie very close to our passions. That’s why when you use your gifts, you feel alive! When you don’t, you feel bored. The thrill of feeling your gifts come alive is really the thrill of the Holy Spirit channeling through you to show the world what Jesus looks like. It’s him with a “you suit” on. He wears you like the yellow Bruce Lee suit, and you start doing some spiritual kung-fu…and kicking some butt for the kingdom (can I say that?).

In your book you describe “gift-driven ministry.” What does that look like?

Peyton Jones: Gift-driven ministry comes from not wanting to be the central figure in a church. My first book Church Zero was about team ministry, which is the first step in a leader not taking charge, but allowing Jesus to lead through a team. I took that from Ephesians 4, when Paul mentions the 5 roles of leadership, but the point of the verse was this: “to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.” That means that church and Christianity are participatory sports, whereas we’ve made them spectator sports. Our churches are interactive because of this. Interaction means that people’s gifts become used. That’s why we sit in small groups on Sundays in our service, the chairs organized into semi-circles throughout the room. It says, “You’re a part of this. You’re going to be interacting here.” Sitting in rows staring at the backs of people’s heads says, “You’re going to be an audience. Sit down, shut up, and just listen.”

You write that your natural inclination has actually been to hate people! How has being a Christian affected your compassion for people?

Peyton Jones: I think all of our natural inclinations is to hate people! I think I’m just honest about it in this book. What I argue is that love, forgiveness, and all of the fruit of the Spirit is a supernatural experience. It’s not something that we work up. But when we’re on mission to see people saved, those things flow through us more readily. It’s because we’ve adopted the missionary posture of Jesus who came not to be served, but to serve.

You point out that the entire book of Acts “practically takes place outside.” Why is it important to be witnessing in public spaces?

Peyton Jones: Buildings are helpful in that they serve as a gathering hub, but the people of God gathered outside too. Crowds are kind of a thing in the New Testament, but the crowds gathered outside of the four walls, not behind them. Public space is where it’s at. When we planted in urban Long Beach, we had 20-30 people every week standing around the edges of our meetings. They would listen, and in a non-commital fashion, they would listen to the preaching. One of those people is on our leadership team now. He heard me mentioning Anthony Kiedis (singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers) and Jesus in the same sentence and had to stop to see what they had in common. If we’d been inside, we would have never reached that guy!

Give some examples of getting creative to reach unreached groups of people.

Peyton Jones: I think it should be things that are natural to you. For example, hospitality is such a big thing in the New Testament because it was natural. It was something that you already did. Right now, the buzz is to invite people over to dinner, but that’s not very creative. We’ve done everything from college student video game tournaments that alternate every other week with a Bible study, to Film Critic’s Club, or reading groups. I actually started a church in a Starbucks after hosting a “Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code” book club night. It was only supposed to go one night, but became an ongoing thing with 50 people showing up. This was in Europe where 0.3 percent of the population believes the Bible is the Word of God. That’s one third of a percent, and people were spiritually hungry. I believe that if you enter the streams of life that you’d normally be in, and get creative, you’ll find that the gospel touches on every aspect of life.

You write churches have often held that, to belong to the church community, you must—in this order—believe, behave, and then you can belong. You say that in church planting, the equation must be reordered to be: belonging, believing, then behaving. Explain how this has worked in churches you’ve planted.

Peyton Jones: This is the part of Reaching the Unreached where I talk about being witnesses in Samaria. It starts with Jerusalem, our own neighborhoods; like Cheers where everybody knows your name. Judea is where we learn to do church outside of our buildings (like when they were driven out of Jerusalem—their comfort zone), but the real litmus test of reaching the unreached comes when we begin to reach the marginalized.

Jesus had a soft spot for people that nobody else did. Lepers, Samaritans, prostitutes, tax-collectors. How we treat our modern day Samaritans tells them a lot about what kind of gospel we truly believe. The community of the church in the New Testament was welcoming to outsiders. It wasn’t exclusive and there wasn’t a metal detector at the door keeping certain sins out. If the transvestite comes to your church, is acting loving toward them compromising the gospel or fulfilling it? These are some of the questions that I tease out as I unpack why we saw so many from the LGBT, gang, and homeless population come to faith and transformed.

Bio: Peyton Jones has been on the front lines of ministry for over ten years. In 1999, at the age of 25, he moved to Europe, and served as the evangelist at Lloyd-Jones’s legendary Sandfields church, Aberavon. An accidental church planter, Jones planted in a Starbucks before returning to America, and planting in inner city Long Beach. To reach those nobody is reaching, Jones has worked as a firefighter, factory worker, barista, and psychiatric nurse, bringing all these experiences to the table. Jones received his MA Theology: Pastoral Studies from Wales Evangelical School of Theology, and is the Regional Catalyst for NAMB. He is also the host of the Jump School Core Team Training Series, managing editor of Church Planter Magazine, co-host of the weekly Church Planter Podcast, and author of Church Zero: Raising 1st Century Churches out of the Ashes of the 21st Century Church.

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‘Thy Kingdom Come’ Global Prayer Event

Thy Kingdom Come website What began as an invitation from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to the Church of England in 2016 has grown into an international and ecumenical call to prayer.

[Browse resources about prayer in the Bible Gateway Store]

Between May 25 — June 4, 2017, the campaign Thy Kingdom Come (@thykingdom_come) is calling communities and churches internationally to gather to pray that their friends, families, and neighbors come to know Jesus Christ.

Bible Gateway Prayer Resources:

A variety of prayer events will take place across the 10 days between the church calendar days of Ascension and Pentecost, including 24/7 prayer rooms, prayer days, prayer walks, and half nights of prayer. Cathedrals, churches, and other venues will host Beacon Events, gathering people across towns and cities to worship and pray for the empowering of the Holy Spirit for effective witness. The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued a global challenge to Christian people to take the #Pledge2Pray (see the interactive map) for #ThyKingdomCome, an online prayer initiative.

Project leader Emma Buchan says, “We’ve heard from churches across the world, including different denominations and traditions, who have all pledged to get involved from South Africa to Canada and from the Brazil to Hong Kong. Each place is organizing the time in their own way, for example in Hong Kong they’re planning big celebrations in the cathedrals and establishing a network of ‘prayer warriors.’”

Archbishop Justin Welby says, “Jesus prayed at the Last Supper that we, those who follow him, might ‘be one that the world might believe.’ We are invited to make a lasting difference in our nations and in our world, by responding to his call to find a deep unity of purpose in prayer. It’s not a Church of England thing, it’s not an Anglican thing; it’s a Christian thing.”

Welby continues: “Pentecost is, of course, the time when we remember the sending of the Holy Spirit….Scripture teaches us [that]….the gift of the Holy Spirit, God’s empowering presence with us, isn’t given to us for our own sake. The reason we pray “Come, Holy Spirit” is not so that we can feel good. It is so that we may be empowered to be his witnesses.

“Every Christian is a witness….Read these words of Jesus in Acts 1:8: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” We cannot witness on our own. So for these ten days we ask, knock, and seek for a fresh empowering of the breath of God for this calling.”

The campaign has the following different daily prayer themes during which participants are encouraged to “Pray It – Picture It – Post It” to the Thy Kingdom Come online prayer walls:

  • 25 May #ToJesus
  • 26 May #Praise
  • 27 May #Thanks
  • 28 May #Sorry
  • 29 May #Offer
  • 30 May #PrayFor
  • 31 May #Help
  • 1 June #Adore
  • 2 June #Celebrate
  • 3 June #Silence
  • 4 June #ThyKingdomCome

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Bible News Roundup – Week of May 21, 2017

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Only 47% of Born Again Christians Believe Absolute Moral Truth is Found in the Bible
American Culture & Faith Institute
Read about being born again in John 3 on Bible Gateway

Gallup: Belief God Created Humans at Record Low
UPI
Gallup
Read about creation from the book of Genesis on Bible Gateway

School Board in West Virginia Suspends Bible in the Schools Program
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

Michigan School District Will Bring Back Cancelled Bible Study Program
WZZM13
MLive

Bible Reading Marathon in Sofia Celebrates 1,150 Years of Cyrillic Alphabet
Evangelical Focus
Read the Bible in Bulgarian on Bible Gateway

Innovative New Bible Offers Fresh Access to Millions
Biblica Europe
Read the New International Reader’s Version (NIrV) Bible translation on Bible Gateway

Bible Society Australia Teams with Cameroon Bible Society to Help Fund Trauma Healing for Girls and Literacy Programs for Refugees
News Release

Scripture Union Celebrates 150 Years of Ministry
Inspire
Scripture Union website

How a Bible May Have Saved a Young Infantryman’s Life in Vietnam
Military Times

Virginia Man Constructs Ark of the Covenant Replica
ABC 13 News
Read about the Ark of the Covenant in Smith’s Bible Names Dictionary on Bible Gateway
Read about the dimensions of the Ark of the Covenant from Exodus 25 on Bible Gateway

Bible Society of Nigeria Donated Bibles Worth 17 Million Nigerian Naira in 2016
New Telegraph
The Bible Society of Nigeria

Americans Worry Less About Guilt & Fear and More About Avoiding Shame
LifeWay Research
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Unashamed: An Interview with Christine Caine

See other Bible News Roundup weekly posts

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The Will of God is the Word of God: An Interview with James MacDonald

James MacDonaldIs God’s will top-secret? When it comes to God’s will, you may live in fear that he’s holding out on you somehow. What does the Bible reveal about God’s will for your life? Are you in God’s will now? Is a confident answer to that question ever possible?

Bible Gateway interviewed James MacDonald (@jamesmacdonald) about his book, The Will of God is the Word of God (B&H Books, 2017).

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In your book, you write, “God’s will is not about where we are or even necessarily whom we are with, but about who we are.” Please unpack that.

James MacDonald: I think 1 Thessalonians 4:3 speaks to this pretty directly: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification.” When we’re increasingly becoming the people God wants us to be, then we can be confident we’re with who he wants us to be with, and where he wants us to be.

In other words, your character traits, spiritual priorities, and manner of living—what Christians have for 20 centuries called “holiness”—are the will of God. And when your life increasingly conforms to God’s prescription for holiness, all of these nonsensical sidetracks of geography, or which couch to buy, or where to go for dinner, fade into the shadows. Then you can live in the glorious freedom of what the will of God is, instead of searching out a nonexistent who, what, where, when, what color, etc.

Stated simply: the will of God is about who you are. The will of God is about your sanctification—that refining process in which you’re conformed more and more into the image of Jesus Christ.

So you don’t need a roadmap for life, spelling out every twist and turn, every choice you need to make. There’s no specific blueprint, and God’s knowledge of the future means you don’t have to figure it out in advance of joyfully experiencing it under his watchful care.

We hear a lot of talk about “sanctification,” but what does that really mean?

James MacDonald: Here’s a definition: Sanctification is the lifelong process in which Christ-followers are refined and increasingly conformed to the behavior pattern of Jesus Christ. It’s the work of God in the lives of forgiven sinners that takes them step-by-step away from selfish, sinful patterns of living and more and more into a life that’s wholly holy, and set apart entirely for the glory of Jesus Christ.

God uses hardship and the circumstances of life to shape and show our character. To be sanctified is to live in complete, continuous submission to him.

Proverbs 3:5-6 is familiar to many, yet do you think it’s biblically understood and rightly applied?

James MacDonald: This is a much-loved passage for many people (including me), yet it’s often misquoted and misunderstood. I’ve heard these verses twisted to mean, “See, there’s the path! It’s a series of dots and I have to be on the exactly right dot all the time. I must make the right choices! I need to discern exactly what God wants me to do at every bend in the road.” But God isn’t worried about whether you choose Chinese or Italian food for dinner. Go to a place you can afford!

These beloved verses do not teach that there’s a path of dots you’d better get on or your life is going to be a travesty. The passage is saying that if you trust God with your whole heart (when you’re making decisions), if you don’t lean on your own understanding (when you’re making decisions), and if you acknowledge God in every decision you make, he will make your paths straight.

The assumption is not that you have to know or even guess the will of God before you make decisions, because the Lord will make sure you don’t take any deadly detours. Even when life is difficult, you won’t be wasting your time. Even when life is painful, you won’t just be marking off days on the calendar. God promises that your path will be straight.

He retains the right to intervene and adjust (straighten) your course, but he also gives you plenty of room to obey. No wasted steps, no wasted anything. God will guide and lead you so your life unfolds in such a way that his highest purposes are accomplished in you. None of this depends on where you work or live. God’s highest purposes are about the kind of person you are. This is the will of God—your sanctification.

How should Christians make decisions?

James MacDonald: The Scriptures make some choices explicitly clear, and our decision on those matters should be no-brainers. For example, should you take something that doesn’t belong to you (also known as stealing)? What’s God’s will for you in this choice? The fact that God included “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15) in the ten cardinal rules we call the Ten Commandments should clue us in clearly to what God wants. Easy decision. Don’t steal!

But what do you do when the choices and alternatives are not as clear? What do you do when the choice is not a matter of a specific, biblical mandate that distinguishes right and wrong?

When handling equal choices, God wants you to make the decision that would please you. God is a good Father who loves you! Within the boundaries of God’s Word, we find structure, direction, protection, and freedom. We don’t have to live in terror of making a wrong choice and violating his purposes.

Think about it—God has revealed himself to us as our Shepherd-Guide. When life is hardest, when circumstances are most difficult, when we feel the deepest pain, he is tenderly guiding, gathering, leading, and carrying us. Always! A loving shepherd would never paralyze his sheep with fear over where to roam or rest. And in the same way, that’s not God’s heart for you. Once you’re safely inside the pasture of God’s Word, God leaves the choices up to you. As long as you don’t jump over the fence, you’re free to choose within its protection.

Doesn’t following a Shepherd-Guide sound like a more joyful life than following a divine architect who hides the blueprint and leaves us guessing in the dark? Being a Christ-follower is meant to be a joyful endeavor—and it is, when we set our hearts on God and enjoy his gifts.


Bio: James MacDonald (DMin, Phoenix Seminary) is the founder and senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel, leading the church since its inception in 1988 with 18 people, to the present with seven campuses in Chicagoland and 13,000 weekly attenders. His practical teaching of God’s Word is broadcast daily around the world on radio and TV through the program Walk in the Word. Dr. MacDonald also founded Harvest Bible Fellowship in 2002, a church-planting ministry which has started more than 150 vertical churches on four continents. He’s authored several books and Bible studies, including The Will of God is the Word of God, Act Like Men, Authentic, When Life Is Hard, Always True, and Vertical Church. He and his wife Kathy live in the Chicagoland area. For more information and teaching from James MacDonald, visit jamesmacdonald.org.

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Never Give Up Praying

by Lee Strobel

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Investigating Faith with Lee Strobel: Find Answers to Tough Questions About the Bible]

Baptism services were always my favorite weekends at Willow Creek Community Church, where I served as a teaching pastor for several years. I reveled in seeing so many people publicly proclaim their faith in Jesus Christ and testify to his transforming influence in their lives. The biggest highlights for me were baptizing my own son and daughter—once the children of a caustic atheist. But I will never forget another incident that taught me again about the awesome power of prayer.

We were baptizing about seven hundred freshly redeemed people that weekend. We spent the first part of the service explaining the gospel, and then the baptism candidates began filing onto the massive stage to be baptized by one of several pastors. They were told they could invite someone to come up with them, since many were frightened at standing in front of four thousand spectators.

A woman in her sixties, accompanied by her tough-looking, construction worker–type husband, walked over to me to be baptized. I greeted her warmly and then asked a question: “Have you received Jesus Christ as the forgiver of your sins?”

“Yes, I have,” she replied, her face radiant and smiling. “Absolutely!”

I was just about to baptize her, but I was stopped cold by what I sensed was a leading by the Spirit. I turned to the man standing nervously by her side.

“You’re her husband,” I said. I meant the words as a question, but they came out more like a statement.

He nodded. “Yes, I am.”

I looked him straight in the eyes and said firmly, “Have you given your life to Jesus Christ?”

For a moment he didn’t say anything. His face began to screw into a knot. I thought he was going to explode in anger or start yelling at me! Then suddenly he burst into tears. “No, I haven’t,” he sobbed. “But I’d like to right now!”

I was stunned! His wife’s jaw dropped open. I wasn’t sure what to do—should I signal a “time-out”? Then I realized there was no reason to wait. In the next few moments, standing in front of an auditorium packed with people, I led him in the sinner’s prayer as he repented and received Christ’s gift of eternal life. And then, with all three of us weeping tears of joy, I baptized him and his wife—together.

After the service, as I was stepping down from the platform, another woman ran up to me, threw her arms around my neck, and kept sobbing, “Nine years! Nine years! Nine years!”

I managed to untangle ourselves and ask, “Who are you? And what do you mean, ‘Nine years’?”

She gestured toward the stage. “That was my brother who you led to the Lord and baptized with my sister-in-law a few minutes ago,” she said. “I have been praying for him for nine long years, and I haven’t seen one shred of spiritual interest that whole time. But look what God did today!”

Though nine years is a long time, I don’t have any doubt that she was glad she never gave up in their prayers for her brother.

I’m sure you celebrate her husband’s conversion every bit as much as I do, and yet maybe you’re thinking, “Nine years? That’s nothing! She was just getting started! I’ve been praying for my spouse for twelve or fifteen or twenty-five years—and I still haven’t seen any spiritual progress!”

Chances are you have wanted to give up. You have done the prayer drill; now you would like some sort of evangelistic shortcut to reaching your partner. But as that woman would tell you: never give up praying!

After all, Jesus didn’t. He never stopped praying for people who were far from God—including those who were bitterly opposed to him. In fact, these prayers continued right up until his death. Based on the imperfect tense of the Greek in the biblical accounts of the Crucifixion, British pastor John Stott said, “Jesus seemed to have prayed for his tormenters actually while the iron spikes were being driven through his hands and feet.” Over and over and over, Jesus kept repeating his prayer, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.

So here is the question for us: If Jesus refused to give up praying for the very soldiers who were in the process of cruelly murdering him, then how in the world could we ever stop praying not only for our own enemies but also—especially—for those who we love the most, including our own spouse?

Once I was speaking at a conference when I noticed a man who was standing by himself in the hallway. His face reflected the most visible peace of God I had seen in a long time. He absolutely exuded contentment! When I asked him about the secret of his happiness, he attributed it to his godly wife who had prayed for him—an agnostic—for twenty-seven years until he finally received Christ in repentance and faith. His conversion changed his eternity, transformed their marriage, and has brought him peace that passes human understanding.

Twenty-seven years! And if you think that is a long time, I got a letter from a Christian who prayed for his atheistic brother for forty-eight years and 348 days—until his brother finally received Christ shortly before dying of cancer. “I just had to keep praying for him,” he told me in a later phone conversation. “I had no choice!”

I hope you too feel a compulsion to pray for the salvation of your spouse and others. Perhaps these stories have encouraged you to persevere, even though you might be seeing very few signs of spiritual progress.

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Taken from Spiritual Mismatch by Lee and Leslie Strobel. Click here to learn more about this title.

In Spiritual Mismatch, bestselling author Lee Strobel and his wife, Leslie, give you practical advice on how to live and thrive in a marriage when your spiritual beliefs don’t match. Lee and Leslie share their own story of a marriage between a Christian and an atheist as seen in the movie The Case for Christ.

Lee Strobel was the award-winning legal editor of the Chicago Tribune and is the bestselling author of The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith, The Case for a Creator, and The Case for Grace. With a journalism degree from the University of Missouri and a Master of Studies in Law degree from Yale, Lee has won four Gold Medallions for publishing excellence and coauthored the Christian Book of the Year. He serves as Professor of Christian Thought at Houston Baptist University. His story is now featured in the motion picture The Case for Christ. Visit Lee’s website at: LeeStrobel.com

Leslie Strobel has been involved in women’s ministries and one-on-one mentoring in the churches where the Strobels have served. She and Lee live in Orange County, California, and are the parents of two grown children.

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